The Hallow of Halloween– Should Christians Be Involved?

Of all the holidays, Halloween definitely provides the most instigation for controversy among the Christian community. 

In some circles, it’s the “no-no” holiday.

Should it be celebrated by Christians?
Should Christians hand out candy?
Should churches condone the idea of children dressing in costume?
Are Christians going to hell for celebrating on “the devil’s day”?

My sons both go to church-affiliated Christian schools. My oldest son is in an elementary school, my youngest in a pre-school.

My youngest son had a class Halloween party complete with treats and all of the kids in their costumes. My oldest son’s class did nothing–the school does not acknowledge the holiday.

Very different views from the same community of believers.

I want to make it very clear that I am deeply rooted in the “It’s Okay for Christians to Celebrate Halloween” camp. But with the emphasis on the fun of it–the happy character costumes, the fun of going door-to-door to get candy, and the excitement a kid has at this time of year.

Halloween is not evil unless you choose for it to be so.

When speaking to Believers who do not celebrate Halloween, the number one reason given is: “Christian’s shouldn’t celebrate Halloween because it’s pagan.”

Not really. As a historian and born again believer, I’m ready to de-bunk the myths of the “pagan” Americanized Halloween.

Many of the American Halloween traditions are relatively new. In the grand scheme of history, dressing in costume and going door-to-door asking for candy have only become popular in the last century.

Before that, Halloween was an unorganized compilation of various religious beliefs and traditions from many European cultures. 

And many of these religious beliefs and traditions were started by the Church. (Big “C” church refers to the Roman Catholic Church–the earliest form of organized Christianity.)

Back in the day, the Celtic people of Europe (the UK and northern France) had beliefs tied to this time of year. They celebrated a holiday called Samhain (sow-in) that recognized the changes in the seasons–from light to dark, warm to cold, and from life to death. October 31 began the new year, and they believed that at Samhain, the land of the living and the land of the dead could overlap.

From these ancient traditions, the Catholic church attempted to reach converts. To take the emphasis off of the paganism of Samhain, the Catholic church made November 1 All Saints Day, or the day to remember and honor the saints. They then added November 2 as All Souls Day, or the day to remember and honor all of the dead who had gone on before.

These two “holy days” fell into the Catholic church’s method of conversion for pagans in the early church days--Keep doing what you’re doing, just do it in the name of Jesus. Remember that in those days, it wasn’t about converting hearts as much as it was about numbers.  So the idea of the living and dead overlapping fell under these days–Church sanctioned days of commemoration for the dead.

The night before All Saints Day became known as All Hallow’s Eve, and then was shortened to Hallowe’en.

One of the traditions during All Souls Day was for children or youngsters to go house to house asking for small cakes. In return, they would offer prayers for the family members who had died. Some believe that our tradition of trick-or-treating might have come from this early practice.

The idea of wearing costumes has no real “pagan” tie. In general, it can be traced back to the idea that many who instigated “trickery” or pranks during this time of year really wanted to mask their identities.

In the early 20th century, communities looked for a way to stop the pranks and keep kids safe on Halloween. They decided to organize community wide parties and parades for kids to show off their costumes, and later on the idea of subduing “tricksters” by offering them sweets turned into modern day trick-or-treating.

The Jack-O-lantern might be the most “evil” of all Halloween traditions. According to old Irish folklore, a man named Jack O’Lantern was so bad that he was kicked out of hell with only a burning ember to light his way. He wanders the earth at night with his ember in a hollowed out turnip. When the legend came to America, children began hollowing out pumpkins to create their own “Jack O’Lanterns.”

Many of the traditions of Halloween can become about evil and death–but only if you let them.

We know what the Bible says about evil. We know what it says about what happens to a soul at death & where it goes. There’s no need to argue whether or not some people emphasize the negatives of the holiday–they do. It’s the non-Christians who’ve darkened the holiday; for well over a thousand years, Christendom has attempted to refocus it.

And if one still wants to cling to the pagan argument, then we must also point out all of the pagan influences in other parts of Christianity. Celebrating Christmas on December 25th, for example. That was not Jesus’ actual birthday. No, no. It was a Roman pagan holiday that the Church usurped, once again taking emphasis off the pagan rituals and putting them on Christianity.

So unless you are out reenacting a Samhain ritual, the paganism of Halloween is all but lost.

If you and your family choose not to celebrate Halloween, there is nothing wrong with that. I respect your decision completely.

Evil has no power over us when we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. We have no reason to fear the “evil” of Halloween if we take the power away from the “evil one” and place our focus on Christ, as we should do daily, not just one day a year.

We can make Halloween fun, non-pagan, and completely in line with what the Bible teaches. We can allow our kids to dress up as happy characters–story book characters, superheroes, etc, and take them door-to-door and allow them the joy of racking up on a potential sugar-buzz.

Everyday is hallowed when we walk in the light of the Lord. Nothing can change that. Glorify the Lord in all you do, even on Halloween.

For more info, check out this video from The History Channel.

Share with me: What do you think about Halloween? Is okay for Christians to celebrate it? Why or why not?


Filed under The Christian Walk

11 responses to “The Hallow of Halloween– Should Christians Be Involved?

  1. Love this history lesson of a night that is so fun for so many. I also fall in the camp of "There's nothing wrong with Christians enjoying a night of tricks, treats and fun." And I find nothing evil about halloween that others don't put there.

  2. Great information. I'm in the same camp. We keep Halloween fun, light and positive in our house. Who couldn't love a three-year-old in a monkey costume asking for candy? 🙂

  3. I didn't know a lot of this! I'm pro Halloween. Would I let my kid dress as something evil? No. But his dragon costume is pretty harmless and quite adorable! Plus, free candy!

  4. Good read. Not so sure I completely agree with your premise "it was not about changing hearts, but about numbers" comment. I believe the early church worked very hard to convert pagans and non-believers into Christians in the belief that they were saving their souls. St. Patrick had a lot of success with that in pagan Ireland…but then that's a GREEN holiday in March, not an ORANGE one in October.

  5. Love that I'm using some of my history nerdiness for good today and droppin' some Halloween knowledge on y'all.Matt–I would argue that compared to what I believe as a Protestant born-again Christian, the early church was definitely more about "numbers" in saving souls than about changing hearts. However, based on the teachings of the Catholic church at the time, they believed that anyone they could convert was a soul saved. So, in that way, I agree with you. It's just a difference in the view of doctrine and salvation, really. 🙂 We actually had this discussion last night at the Religions 101 class I teach. 🙂 Fun!!

  6. my preacher just preached all of this yesterday! he spent time in scotland, and he was pronouncing stuff with authenticity….very clear to see how halloween came from all hallow's eve. cool thing…he said in scotland, the kids there call it "guising" when they go trick or treating in costume….short for disguising. little tidbit i didn't know. maddy will be dressed up like an ice cream cone. some people thought she was a cupcake yesterday….but what do they know? she (and mom and dad) will have a blast tonight! be safe with your crew!

  7. Great history lesson! I agree all these days are what you perceive them to be. I have mennonite friends who will not go trick or treating and have a huge dinner at their church so the kids are not at home asking to go trick or treating and I think that's a bit sad. Look how many people don't mind getting presents at Christmas (Christ mass) and have no idea what the day really means. It does de-value the day a bit when it wasn't Christ's actual birthday, but that's no different from having a birthday party on the nearest weekend when everyone can come n'est-ce pas?

  8. Very interesting, Jenny! I get sort of creeped out by the darker aspects of Halloween, but it's interesting to see the actual history of it. My son is excited about raking in all that candy tonight…and let's admit it, so am I. 🙂 Have a good one!

  9. While I don't begrudge others celebrating Halloween, I personally stopped doing it the year I got saved and the Lord convicted me that I shouldn't have any part in it. See Ephesians 5:11, Revelation 9:21, 2 Corinthians 6:14.The Christmas- and Easter parallels are flawed, because despite their pagan nature, they still bring attention to the birth and resurrection of Jesus, respectively. It is more of a stretch, even convoluted, to say that Halloween has any connection to anything scriptural (except perhaps idolatry).(Even if/when we dress our children in harmless costumes, they are generally still surrounded by others representing evil facets, and are not mature enough to understand why their costume is OK, and the others' are not.)What I propose we Christians do is begin a tradition of masquerade/costume parties six months away from Halloween, in April, where the fascination with such festivities can be satisfied wholly apart from Halloween.

  10. Patriotdog– love your comments and your opinion. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  11. Jennifer,I loved this history lesson! You're awesome. I love that last line about everything being hallowed when we walk in the light of the Lord–so true. Thanks for debunking the myths. {oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog today. It was good to "see" you:)}Mel

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